Manchester United set a new club record of 25 matches unbeaten in a single top-flight season, but the Reds’ hunt for a top-four place faltered as Swansea City grabbed a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford.
A first-half penalty from Wayne Rooney was cancelled out by a sublime Gylfi Sigurdsson free-kick late in the game as United drew a 10th game at home and missed the chance to move into third place in the Premier League.
Boss Jose Mourinho, made four changes to the side that picked up a valuable point away to City in the Manchester derby. Most notably, Wayne Rooney returned as captain and Juan Mata was fit enough for a place on the substitutes’ bench alongside 20-year-old Academy product, Scott McTominay.
United paid tribute to the Nigerian football fans who lost their lives when an electric cable fell on them watching a United match on TV last week by wearing black armbands, while it was the visitors, who had the majority of the early possession, which was perhaps no surprise given the style of attractive football Paul Clement’s men play.
The Reds were dealt an early blow as Luke Shaw hobbled down the tunnel and was replaced by Antonio Valencia, who had been expected to have a well-earned rest today. Mourinho could have done without that given the Reds were playing their third game in seven days and 57th overall this season.
United, had failed to get out of first gear with the visitors beginning to look dangerous. An Eric Bailly clearance rebounded off Sigurdsson, but luckily for the Reds, the ball hit the side netting.
Fernando Llorente then had a chance to score as he out-muscled Bailly, but David De Gea palmed away, while United’s first clear-cut opportunity fell to Jesse Lingard on 17 minutes, as an inch-perfect ball over the top by Anthony Martial fell to the Englishman, but his delicate touch was saved by the feet of Lukasz Fabianski.
Martial then cut inside on his right foot and curled his effort straight at Fabianski as the Reds finally began to find their stride before, at the other end, Jordan Ayew beat the offside trap and fired at De Gea’s legs from a narrow angle.
Minutes before half-time, Lingard unleashed a rasping effort which flew wide of the far post, before he then played in Rashford, who was brought down by Fabianski in the box after poking the ball past him. Referee Neil Swarbrick, thought long and hard about the decision and pointed to the spot.
Rooney calmly converted the penalty for his second goal in as many matches, to send United into the break, perhaps fortuitously, ahead.
Possession: United 50% Swansea 50%
Shots at goal: United 6 Swansea 7
Shots on target: United 3 Swansea 3
Corners: United 3 Swansea 1
United started the second period in positive fashion as fantastic inter-play saw Ander Herrera cut the ball back for Rooney who looked certain to double his and United’s tally, but his strike from 10 yards hit the back of Martial when he looked destined to score.
When Mourinho thought his injury list couldn’t get any longer, Bailly picked up a knock after a challenge with Llorente and was replaced by Matteo Darmian.
The Reds, who were more in control in the second half, came close to doubling their lead on the hour mark as Martial again cut inside and struck a low, deflected effort which so nearly caught Fabianski out, but the stopper managed to save with his feet.
Valencia was then found on the right by Herrera and he fired in a wicked effort which was palmed away by Fabianski, before Sigurdsson, who was looking to score in three consecutive Premier League away appearances at Old Trafford since Sergio Aguero in April 2015, fired over from 20 yards at the other end.
That was to be a warning for United mind as 11 minutes before the end, Sigurdsson did extend his own personal Old Trafford scoring record, curling in a sublime free-kick from 25 yards which left De Gea rooted.
United had just over 10 minutes to respond and Lingard nearly did, but his back-post header was caught by Fabianski. Swansea then went close to grabbing all three points, but Llorente failed to connect sufficiently with Sigurdsson’s free-kick. The disappointing result means the Reds missed the chance to steal a march on their top four rivals.
Possession: United 56% Swansea 44%
Shots at goal: United 12 Swansea 12
Shots on target: United 6 Swansea 4
Corners: United 5 Swansea 2
United: De Gea; Young, Bailly (Darmian 60), Blind, Shaw (Valencia 9); Carrick, Herrera, Lingard; Rooney (C) (Mkhitaryan 80), Martial, Rashford.
Subs not used: Romero, Tuanzebe, Mata, McTominay.
Booked: Martial, Lingard
Swansea: Fabianski, Naughton, Mawson, Fernandez, Kingsley, Britton (Montero 66) (Olsson 72), Carroll, Ki (Fer 60), Sigurdsson, Ayew, Llorente.
Subs not used: Nordfeldt, Amat, Cork, Borja.
Booked: Britton, Fernandez.